Hello. Thank you for bringing your question to JA.com. You've provided some very helpful and detailed information here. I feel I have a strong sense of your situation but I'm not clear on your question. Do you mind giving me a sense of what specific question you have related to the very clear situational details you've provided?
Hello, I don't know what to do to move forward with my situation to stop divorce, my husband seems scared of trying like his locked himself away in a safe box. sometimes its like his scared of me or his so guilty of hurting me but i keep reassuring him that the hurt will be worth it if we survive this and spend yrs of happiness together but he says he can't even think of 40 years with me!
Thank you very much. So your asking for suggestions and strategies for saving your marriage from divorce. Is that correct?
Alright. Well to get started, in my experience working with highly distressed and emotionally disconnected couples it's a question of re-pairing emotional injuries at the "attachment level."
he is very closed of from any ideas and the only way is when i oush so hard he gives in or when i'm crying and very upset!
Well that's a good sign because it means that he loves you and is affected on a deep emotional level. What gets in the way of reconnecting in less intense situations to your crying is chronically unmet core-relationship needs.
Was your communication prior to separation characterized by criticism-defense and "stonewalling" or shutting down on one or both of your parts?
You'll notice I'm adding links for educational purposes. Please take your t
time to review and consider your responses
yes he has shut down and doesn't say much else than he needs space. i made him tell me the parts he didn't like about me and tahts when it came out that iput him down and make him feel 2nd rate and tell him how he should run his life.
What did he tell you he didn't like?
he said i'm not as self obsessed as he thought i was when he saw me break down over this and cry as his always seen me as strong and not someone who crys in front of him, he thought i would talk and cry in private so i think this confused him, as everytime i see him i break down and cry as i feel like someone is ripping my heart out. He said i'm selfish and his an after thought, i care more about my friends and family, i'm always asking him what his thinking and his not making enough effort, i tell him how to think, what to think and how to behave, I speak down tohim in front of people, giving gifts was an after thought for not ebing there, not acting like a wife (as i didn't want to change my name) and i found it hard accepting marriage. i make him feel 2nd rate like his job isn't important
So you're husband is "stonewalling" unless he really see's you distressed, which probably pushes him away as well because it's so hard to deal with.
I am really sorry you both have to go through this right now.
yes i guess he is as we just go round in circles, he hasn't ever said thats it, its over but i feel people are pushing him and he will do this. he just says he doesn't know what he wants but doesn't want to go back to what we had become
i keep trying to tell him it won't but he just won't see past my words
he does break down and cry when he sees me cry
Ok. So again there is still a spark in there to work with and expand. In every case of extreme marital distress and crisis I have worked with over the years towards re-stabilization, the criticism, defense and stonewalling are always expressions of un-expressed and thus, un-met core relationship needs.
Actually, let me rephrase. The stonewalling and critisism-defense are actually very poor expressions of the underling unmet needs.
My next question becomes what are these needs on his and your part?
What is he not getting that has shut him down and frustrated him so deeply, that he doesn't know if he can trust any kind of re-connection and improvement process?
If you can find out what his top 1 or 2 relationship needs are, you can come up with a plan to meet them for him. Ideally he would do the same to make the corrective process easier and easier for you both.
I don't know! if i ask him what he wants he says he doesn't know, i even try the game of happy times and things he did like about us when we were happy and he says he misses US when we used to go out and do stuff and he now feels we've become house mates not husband and wife
Those are very normal statements for someone who has shutdown or is stonewalling. It's particularly difficult for men who are not trained or socialized to communicate feelings and relationship needs effectively. Let me make some suggestions here for how you might be able to get to these needs definitions:
I want to help him and us and i am hopefully seeing him tomorrow and i am going to ask the questions what is his top 1 or 2 needs from me as his wife or maybe were they ?
One moment please.
before you give me the suggestions i thought its best to say that he doesn't make much contact with me, i txt today after yesterdays ongoings to ask how he is and I haven't had a reply (5hrs on) but i am going to try and call him tonight as he is moving back to our house, even if its just a 2 minute convo as txting can make things worse (well me for me) his also very closed down as you say "stonewalling"
That's consistent with stonewalling. He's protecting himself from the marital distress from chronically unmet needs...
how do i find the unmet needs out and make him come out of the safe box his built!
I'm just putting together some suggestions. I'll be back in 5 minutes. Have you had a chance to look at the videos I linked..
yes i've had a look at them and will look at them again later with my mum, i'm now looking up stonewalling so i understand it more
Excellent. I also wanted to ask you what gets in the way of counseling? If you go to evidence-based marital therapy together you could really gain a lot here. I'm not affiliated or marketing anything. I just think that to save your marriage your going to have to establish positive behavioral momentum, that means mutual needs meeting and effective communication to this end. Again what's getting in the way of your husband attending counseling with you?
He just won't go! i have asked and he says no. i have asked why and he just cages in.
Would he be willing to go not for "marriage counseling" but to help you deal with the separation?
Many men are afraid that they will get "ganged up on" in counseling.
No,he might think about that as i said i was going to have counselling and said maybe he could come with me and he said maybe but nothing more than that
i think he feels likes that anyway as everyone is saying he should try and his said he knows what he should do but my mum said that means opening himself up to get hurt again if he trys!
he thinks it will just go back to being bad and i keep saying maybe it will go back to whn we were happy or maybe even better than when we were happy. I have a positive for every negative
Well, I'm going to provide some science-based communication strategies, but if you can get to evidence-based marital therapy you could very likely get some lasting positive results (save/transform your marriage) in as little as 7 sessions. This is the best marital therapy in the world. I think you're mother's right, but if you could get him to just one session of EFT marital therapy I think he'd start to feel very comfortable very quickly:
Here's a good slide show you can expand to full screen and watch that explains how it works and why:
Here are some steps for gently trying to find out what you're husband really needs from you:
1) Scale the relationship with him if you can. That means find out how he would rate it on a scale of 1 to 10
10 means "we are really in trouble emotionally"
1 means it's wonderful like it used to be when you would go out and have fun together
Actually reverse that please 10 is the best and 1 is distressed...
2) When you get a relationship number say 3 or 4, start to ask open-ended questions about what stops you getting the number up closer to 10.
Open ended questions can't be answered with a simple yes or no answer. They usually start with a how, why or when etc
You want to keep gently asking questions, with no criticism of any kind to further clarify the need to the point where you have action-steps you can follow, a plan to get the underling need met.
If you see he is distressed emotionally, stop asking questions, if he gets upset he wouldn't be able to answer intelligibly. This is where you're focus becomes soothing, helping him to relax or to calm, a back rub or a break are examples.
do i ask him first what his needs are from me as a wife or maybe what he would want them to be and then the rating of the relationship followed by open ended questions
I would start by scaling the relationship first. When you have a number like say 5 or 6 or 3 you then have a "gap" to analyze.
What's getting in the way of achieving a higher number. You can then clarify as you go with open ended questions.
even with open ended questions he will often answer don't know before giving it a go at answering!
Well if you are unable to get responses gently. Then apart from a highly trained (I would recommend EFT) therapist it can be very difficult. Ideally, on his part, he would learn basic marital communication strategies as well. Another or complementary approach would be to read one of 2 evidence-based marital communication books together. Would he be open to regular date nights where you read to each other for 30 minutes and ask highly targeted questions designed to help couples who are stuck?
he might do that as we did start doing a date night once a month when difficult times at xmas plus he used to always read to me before bed or when on holiday as he knows i liked it!!! so maybe
Sorry my screen shifted here to another screen I'm back though!
So you have a positive relationship history of reading together? Excellent
I think if you could really set up a relaxing home date night for reading no strings attached that would be wonderful.
Where and when would you read together?
yes i guess, it might be a starting ground. well i am hopefully seeing him tomorrow so i can try and suggest this then in someway. It would mean going to our home, having dinner and general chat and then reading and seeing if that helps us in anyway
As he learns to feel save and sees the incredible benefits of a strong healthy marriage he may then be willing to attend 7 therapy sessions if they are still indicated...
Yes, I'd keep the relationship talk to a minimum except through the reading which will guide you very gently with questions. I'd also do everything you can to make the time before and after reading very relaxing and basically enjoyable.
he does say i am easy to be around and relaxing so hopefully it would work. so what books are they??
You could make a list of things you know he'd like to eat or ways to relax together. From a behavioral perspective, the more reinforcing being with you is the more he will want to be with you. I just read your last post, so you may not need to make a list.
Here's the book I'd recommend starting with:
Most of John Gottman's books are very good as well. I'd stay away from popular books that are not rooted in strong relationship science like "men are from mars" etc
I suggested yesterday when i was leaving that we have dinner together which he agreed with and when he said yes i asked who would cook tomorrow and he said he would..... maybe i should see this as a positive in small way
Yes build on those positives where ever you can. The behavioral principal you can apply here is called "the premack principal" and is widely applied in behavioral couples therapy:
ok thank you. is the book hard going or easy???
No, "Hold me Tight" is very easy to read and actually has a structured conversation built in to it based on EFT marital therapy.
ok i will suggest it, i will also try the rating of the relationship and open questions to see how we can get it up to a better mark. his such a kind, caring and loving person i want to show him i can help us and so can he.
my only worry is the longer were apart the more he seems to say negative things. if he was 60% unhappy before his 80% unhappy now and sure it can't be finxed
Well if you focus on keeping things positive at first, and try to be mindful of your own emotional distress and calm yourself when you you do become distressed, it will be easier and easier for him to come to you and to open up.
Do you see any other obstacles getting in the way of this strategy?
Successive approximations or babe steps are needed here.
i think my first hurdle is to get him to even find willingness to look at trying! as at the moment he doesn't want or think he can try
Being able to self induce relaxation is another high leverage tool for communicating effectively under emotional stressful conditions, it allows you to stay sharp and on task
i'm very impatient in general but add my fear to that and i panic i will lose him! but we have both said in the past small little steps and i try but i need something to hold on to like a future dat... as if i just sit wondering i panic
Well, babe steps, just get to dinner and keep it as positive as possible at first. Let the book do the initial relationship work. Once he learns about what is possible and how to start to open up you can work more systematically at communication. This way it's the book and not you. I think you're calm will have a remarkable positive affect on your efforts here. Relaxation training is like learning to drive a car, but I would really add this to your strategy, - maybe share it with your husband eventually.
Massage can be a shared soothing strategy as well, but I'd start with the dinners and the book with no strings attached an really learning and evolving your relationship repair strategy and skills development process.
so do u mean i should try and not cry
Well when you read the book together at first it may be that you cry. But the book like t
EFT therapy will protect you from crying at the wrong time
Tender emotions are good. Reactive emotions to hurt, like self protective anger lead to criticism and stonewalling and breakdown...
ok but i won't have the book tomorrow when i see him! so i have to go in on my own and i don't want to pretend or avoid the convo about us!!!
You want to open up your tender emotions and his but in a way that makes you want to naturally soothe and protect each other from heart not aggressively defend yourselves and shut down from secondary or reactive emotions.
ok well i guess all i can do is go in and hope we can just have a meal without talking about all of the heartache and pain. i wish i could wave a magic wand and make it all better, i just want to try and get him thinking positively or at leave willingly
Well I think you're on the right track. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
no that is all, i am going to call him tonight as he did text me back saying sorry for the delay and that he had been ok and how was i... but i want to change the way we communicate as textin isn't helping!!! so maybe a phone call might. thank you for the advise and help
can i save our convo so i can go back to it?
Yes you can definitely come back and our exchange will be here. You can also copy and past it to a word document as well to save having to log in etc.
There's one other thing I want to add, one moment please:
Back to the positive reinforcement and Premack's principal. Please try to get into the habit of looking for "positives" in your increasing exchanges and get together with your husband. There is actually a 1 to 5 formula that is predictive of relationship repair and maintenance over time. That's 5 positive or support comments for every 1 negative comment. I have seen this really make a difference in saving couples in crisis in my private practice. It's about increasing complements and positive evaluative statements, but making sure they are genuine because you are really looking for the positive in your husband and his actions.
Ok, well I think I've shared enough info to keep you going for a while. Please don't forget to press the "Accept" button if you are satisfied with my very long answer to your question (hope it wasn't too long). I'd also value your short positive feedback statement at sign out in keeping with the Premack's principal! - lol
I wish you and your husband the very best!
thank you, XXXXX XXXXX come back on here again will i talk to you or someone who will know my situ? if i press accept am i then charged £26?
Yes, you will be charged the what I see here as 36.35 USD one time. And yes, you can see my mini profile and ask for me in the text of your next question if you have one. My first name isXXXXX review questions I go to the one's with my name in them first. I check the question list here every day between or after counseling clients. I'd be glad to answer future questions should they come up.
ok thank you, XXXXX XXXXX let you know how i get on as i feel i will need more help. thank you